- The Washington Times - Monday, July 1, 2002

Two breaks in the case of Sami Al-Arian. Remember him? He's the University of South Florida (USF) computer science professor whose life changed after a September appearance on the "O'Reilly Factor." Why? Maybe it was his tepid performance in professing to be shocked, shocked, that Ramadan Shallah, a man Mr. Al-Arian helped gain an entry visa and a USF position, later returned to the Middle East to head up Islamic Jihad. Or maybe it was the reference to another Al-Arian performancethis one, no doubt, more convincing in which he declared, "Jihad is our path! Victory to Islam! Death to Israel! Revolution! Revolution until victory! Rolling to Jerusalem!" (Or, maybe it was Mr. Al-Arian's classic opener in response to the latter: "Let me just put it into context … . ")
Whatever it was, after the prime-time debut of Mr. Al-Arian who, not incidentally, used to run a pair of USF-affiliated organizations closed by the FBI in 1995 as terrorist fronts everything changed. As "Terrorism U" was besieged by calls and threats, as donations and student applications fell off, Mr. Al-Arian was suspended with pay. Citing a contractual violation and safety concerns, USF President Judy Genshaft announced in December that he would be fired.
Then, nothing. Or not much, as far as visible action was concerned. The Justice Department announced in February that Mr. Al-Arian was continuing to be investigated for links to terrorism. He remains suspended from the university, but continues to draw a paycheck. He still hasn't been fired or reinstated, which is what the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has just called for. Concluding that Professor Al-Arian's statements fell "well within" the boundaries of academic freedom, the AAUP urged President Genshaft not to fire him or else face censure, an action best described as academia's equivalent of cooties.
Well worth pondering is the function of academic freedom's boundaries if even calls for "jihad" and "death to Israel" (and fundraising for both) are considered vital to the unfettered pursuit of excellence in computer science. But there's more. Citing "current and former senior Israeli intelligence officials," the Tampa Tribune reported this week that Mr. Al-Arian didn't just hang out with people who voila turned into terrorists, or raised cash for groups linked to terrorism, but he also "helped found the governing council of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and then served on it."
According to the Tampa paper, authorities are focusing on whether money Mr. Al-Arian raised in the United States went to finance Islamic Jihad terrorism in Israel "in particular," the paper reports, "an April 1995 bombing attack on a bus that killed eight people in the Gaza Strip," including Alisa Flatow, a 20-year-old American student. Stephen Flatow, Alisa's father, recently testified about his daughter's murder before a federal grand jury in Tampa. Maybe "context" is close at hand.


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